Hunger or Craving?


You’d think it would be easy to eat when you're hungry and drink when you're thirsty, but as we all know, it’s not as easy as it sounds. In our day of living we’ve all become accustomed to habits based upon our daily lifestyles. For example, when I worked in the corporate world many years ago, I started drinking coffee each morning because that’s what everyone did. It was an unnecessary habit I started when I arrived at work each day.

Nowadays we’ve lost our true perception of hunger. How do we know if we’re truly hungry or just experiencing a food craving? The key is learning how to recognize the difference between hunger and cravings.

True hunger commonly occurs when you haven’t eaten for a while (a few hours or more). If you’ve gone a really long time without eating, you’ll also notice hunger pangs in your stomach such as rumbling and grumbling. You may feel weak and lightheaded with a possible headache. My husband always knows when I’m hungry because I get cranky, too (commonly referred to as ‘Hangry’).

One important thing to remember about hunger is that the feeling doesn't pass with time. If you’ve waited approximately 15-20 minutes and you’re still feeling the same way, then you really may be hungry. Your body is telling you that you need to eat and satisfy that hunger with food. Just make sure it’s not one type of food you are fixated on, as that may be a craving.

Cravings are usually for one specific ‘comfort’ food such as sweets, salty items, and fatty foods versus just nourishment in general. Cravings are also commonly caused by negative feelings and can be stronger if you’re dieting or restricting specific foods from your nutrition. And for us ladies out there, these cravings intensify during our menstrual cycle and pregnancy. What fun!

Many times we give-in to our cravings to feel better, but it can also put us a through an emotional roller coaster. We feel good while consuming the food item of choice, but then feel guilty afterward. Occasional guilt after over-indulging is normal, however if every single meal is a battle with excessive guilt, regret, and shame, then this might be something more serious.

Cravings can also occur right after we’ve eaten. For example, I commonly crave sweets the moment I’m done eating dinner – that’s my downfall and it’s a true sugar craving! But the most important thing to remember about cravings, is that they will pass with time. When I have those sugar cravings, I sometimes give-in to them, but many times I try to distract myself and eventually forget I even had the craving in the first place.

Try distracting yourself with journaling, exercise, sleeping, working, studying, listening to music, talking to a friend, or anything else that will shift your mindset to a positive new task at hand.

So, the next time you have the desire to eat, stop and try to recognize if it’s hunger or just a craving.

Have a happy, healthy and nutritious day!

Heather Binns Founder, Renov8 Fitness, LLC


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